Why Do India’s Inequalities Persist?

The economic growth of India in recent history has seemingly bypassed a majority of the country. Despite having the ninth highest overall GDP in the world (World Bank), India still has a higher population of poor people than any other country (Zagha). Zagha offers five ideas on what might cause this inequality: A lack of ample infrastructure, an inability to generate jobs, especially for unskilled workers, the inaccessibly of healthcare and education for many of India’s citizens, increased urbanization, and the questionable effectiveness of government programs (Zagha). While all five of these issues contribute to India’s inequality, the most egregious of India’s shortcomings are the inadequate infrastructure and the lack of education.

In India, basic services, such as clean drinking water, are often too expensive for low class citizens to access. While the rich can afford to have water brought to them in tankers, the poor are forced to rely on public services that are rationed out unfairly, leaving the poor with unfit living conditions (Zagha). These conditions often lead to health problems, which only further a family’s economic hardship (Zagha). Additionally, in many poor communities, there are no public transportation services, or roads, for that matter, leaving no way for children to travel to school (Zagha). This prevents poor citizens from gaining the most valuable resource of all, education.

A proper education is the only way for poor citizens to achieve social mobility. While India may appear to have a successful education system due to its elite schools ranking among the best in the world, it is not accessible to a majority of the society (Zagha). Additionally, women in India lack many of the same rights as men, leaving them to a literacy rate 17% less than men. (O’Neil). In 2009, a law was introduced that, “makes education a fundamental right and reserves 25% of school seats for poor children.” This law was upheld in 2012, which could certainly be a sign of progress for India’s education system (BBC). By providing a good education for people of all classes and genders and ensuring that an effective infrastructure is in place to guarantee sufficient living conditions, India could create new opportunities for millions of people and significantly reduce its gap in economic inequality.


Works Cited:

Zagha, Roberto. 2013. “India’s Inequality: An Uneasy Reconciliation with Economic Growth.” Current History 112 (753).

O’Neil, Patrick H. Cases in Comparative Politics. 5th ed. S.l.: W W Norton, 2015.

World Bank Database


India’s right-to-education law ‘valid’ – Supreme Court



One thought on “Why Do India’s Inequalities Persist?

  1. First off, I think your emphasis on the importance of an increased infrastructure is spot on. Access to basic amenities is the foundation for any legitimate population, and the fact that so many people are without things like running water, proper toilets, and even roads is an unacceptable hindrance to living a meaningful life. Moreover, the inequality between the people living in abject poverty, poverty, and the elite class (something Zagha doesn’t talk about but should) further emphasizes the systematic failure of the government to provide its citizens with the most basic human rights.

    I would, however, like to challenge your point about the importance of education for poor citizens to achieve social mobility. While I understand that education is crucial for the overall success of a country and its people, I think that India first needs to build a middle class for education to play a significant role in the success of India specifically. Zagha talks about India’s “missing middle”–the “export-oriented low-skill-intensive manufacturing sector” that India has not developed. Because, realistically, the education that would be provided to this lower class would be insufficient for anything but these “low-skill-intensive” jobs, without the development of the “missing middle” education becomes almost meaningless. While I don’t mean to be insensitive to the importance of education, I believe that an improvement of the economy by way of achievable opportunities is most important in fixing India’s inequality problem. And the only way to do that, in my opinion, is by improving the middle class so that education can have meaning to those who have access to it.

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